Simple DIY Pen Plotter, Great First CNC Project

[Morten] has been busy recently making a pen plotter. It is a simple and elegant build that he completely designed from the ground up. There are no extra frivolous parts here. The frame is made from laser-cut plexiglass which makes fabrication easy if you have access to a laser cutter. Two NEMA17 motors are responsible for the machine’s movement. One moves the pen carriage back and forth by way of a belt. The other is connected by laser-cut gears to a roller bar, scavenged from an ink jet printer, that moves the paper media forward and aft underneath the pen.

The software chain used here is sort of uncommon compared to other inexpensive DIY CNC machines we see here on Hackaday. [Morten] creates his geometry with Rhino, then uses a plugin called Grasshopper to generate the g-code that controls the machine. That g-code is sent using gRemote to an Arduino flashed with the contraptor.org g-code interpreter. A RAMPS board takes the step and direction signals generated by the Arduino and moves the two stepper motors appropriately.

In typical open-supporting fashion, [Morten] has made his design files freely available for anyone to download. His plotter moves the pen side to side and the paper front to back in order to draw shapes but that’s not the only way a plotter can work. Check out this polar plotter and this one that hangs.

Check out the video after the break…

10 thoughts on “Simple DIY Pen Plotter, Great First CNC Project

    1. You would probably want to be able to raise/lower the pen, but you’re talking about a knife plotter. There are plenty of commercial varieties (if you’ve been to a mall in the past 10 years, you probably saw one at the custom vinyl shack). Replacement blades are cheap (http://www.silhouetteamerica.com/shop/blades-and-mats/SILH-BLADE-FAB-3T).
      They basically consist of a free-pivoting XActo blade inside a plastic carrier. Some have adjustable blade depth for different materials.

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